Excellence, Diversity and Growth: A historical biography of the IMISCOE Research Network

26 March 2015

By Aafke Brus, Radboud University Nijmegen

August 2014

2. Origins and development of IMISCOE

The formal establishment of IMISCOE was in April 2004, when the European Commission decided to finance it as a Network of Excellence. However, plans for the network originate from earlier dates. The first steps towards an international migration and integration research network started around 2002, initiated by Prof.dr. Rinus Penninx. This was initiated in response to an open consultation of the European Commission (EC). The Commission wanted to gain insight into the academic research field and they asked academics to formulate possible research questions. In 2003 the EC published its plans for the Sixth Framework Program (FP6), which included comparative research of migration and integration. Subsequently, Penninx started to bring together academics and institutes that were willing to join the network. The aim was to include institutes from all over Europe, trying to cover as many member states of the EU as possible. All in all, in 2004 the Network of Excellence started with 19 institutes from different European countries; these institutes were the founding fathers of IMISCOE (see table 1).


Table 1: Institutes that founded IMISCOE in 2004.

  • CES, University of Coimbra, Portugal
  • CEIFO, University of Stockholm, Sweden
  • CEDEM, University of Liège, Belgium
  • CEG, University of Lisbon, Portugal
  • COMPAS, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  • DEUSTO, University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain
  • EUR, Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • EFSM, University of Bamberg, Germany
  • FIERI, Turin, Italy
  • ICMPD, Vienna, Austria
  • ISR/EIF of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria
  • IMES, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • IMIS, University of Osnabrück, Germany
  • INED, Paris, France
  • MIGRINTER, University of Poitiers, France
  • NIDI, The Hague, The Netherlands
  • SCMR, University of Sussex, United Kingdom
  • SociNova, University of Lisbon, Portugal
  • SFM, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland


In 2004 IMISCOE received 4,5 million euro from the EC, for a five year period (2004-2009). This money had to cover the expenses for five years. Most of this money was spent on a number of research clusters. In the period 2004-2009 four institutes were included in IMISCOE as ‘associated members’: HWWI, CMR, CEFMR, and CESS. Due to this enlargement, more countries in Europe were represented in the network.

EU funding for IMISCOE ended formally on April 1st 2009. Due to a no-cost extension, the network could however use unspent funds for another year, until April 2010. However, in the mean time the network had to decide on its future, which was the topic of several important meetings of IMISCOE’s Board of Directors. The founding member institutes as well as the four new (associated) members decided to continue IMISCOE as an International Research Network (IRN), independent from EU funding. The member institutes decided, first, that the programming of research on a European and global level as well as building and maintain an infrastructure for training and education should be IMISCOE’s core tasks from now on. Secondly, the structure of IMISCOE would change into that of an International Research Network, to be founded by a consortium agreement that was signed by all member institutes. Also, the member institutes allowed IMISCOE to expand in terms of the number of institutes involved, though preferably in an incremental manner. Finally, the members agreed that the network would from now on be funded by membership fees, from individual as well as institutional members.

In the period following this turning point in IMISCOE’s development, IMISCOE welcomed several new member institutes, the first amongst whom were Mirekoç in Istanbul, MIM in Malmö and IEM in Madrid. The Network grew rapidly to over 20 member institutes from all over Europe, which, according to several leading figures within IMISCOE in this period, was quite unexpected due to the fact that member institutes now had to pay a fee to be a member (rather than benefiting from part of the EU funding). The number of individual members grew rapidly as well in this period. Several commentators on IMISCOE’s development in this period explain this growing interest in IMISCOE by the establishment of IMISCOE’s reputation in this period as well as the shift in focus from a policy orientation in the early years to an orientation on member institutes and their interests and ideas relating to research, publications, events and training. 

Since its establishment in 2004, IMISCOE had been led by the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (University of Amsterdam), with Prof.dr. Rinus Penninx in the role of coordinator of IMISCOE. Due to developments within the University of Amsterdam, the retirement of Rinus Penninx, and a more general desire to change IMISCOE’s leadership more often, the decision was taken to move the coordination of IMISCOE to another member institute. After several rounds of discussion amongst the Board of Directors and several bids by member institutes, a decision was taken to grant the coordination of IMISCOE to Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Erasmus University Rotterdam took over the coordination of IMISCOE as of April 2014. The role of network coordinator was now shared by Prof.dr. Maurice Crul and Dr. Peter Scholten. This reflects the fact that the Erasmus bid for IMISCOE was a joint effort of the departments of Sociology and Public Administration within this university. The bid was also supported by the City of Rotterdam, the Erasmus Trustfund and the Erasmus University Board. EUR provided a specific outlook for the future of IMISCOE. First, it wanted to strengthen IMISCOE’s publication strategy. A priority of the coordinator was to find a new publisher with a better arrangement, which was found in Springer. EUR would also add a journal to IMISCOE’s publication program, which was the journal Comparative Migration Studies. Secondly, the outlook included efforts to strengthen the annual conference, by attracting more scholars from more disciplines and at the same time enhancing its program and quality. The third point was research, involving a continuation of the provision of seed-funding to research groups in a competitive way. Furthermore, EUR intents to strengthen the role of IMISCOE in the European lobby for research funding. Fourthly, PhD training will be continued to be supported, in particular the summer- or winterschools and the development of an IMISCOE PhD Network. And finally, the coordinators wanted to professionalize IMISCOE’s communication strategy, specifically with a new website, using social media and a new format for the newsletters.

In 2014 IMISCOE also experienced a new period of growth. The number of individual members increased to around 500 after the largest IMISCOE conference thus far (Madrid 2014). Furthermore, several new member institutes joined the network in 2014, bringing the total number of member institutes at a record number of 35 as of 2014.


1. Introduction <<< 2. Origins and development of IMISCOE >>> 3. Research

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